Choose Your Own Adventure: Physical vs. Digital Comics

I’ve been an avid comic book reader ever since I stepped foot into my first comic book shop, years ago in the early 90’s. It was one of those hole in the wall stores behind a Montgomery Ward department store that had an assortment of comics, toys, and collectible cards. This was what I considered my local comic store, and, I left the store every Friday with a bag of goodies to keep me busy until the following week. Fast forward to today and I still make the trek to my local comic store every Wednesday to pick up a bag of goodies, but there is another way that I consume comics, too, through the digital realm.

When digital comics were introduced, a lot of regular comic store goers, like me, were worried that the comic shops would lose patrons. But then I started to realize if this allowed more people to become comic book fans, then that’s something that I could support. So I started to check out what the digital medium had to offer and was pleasantly surprised. I could download digital comics every Wednesday when new comics were released on my computer or tablet, without stepping foot into a comic store! For a new reader who doesn’t have a local comic store to call their own, they essentially have a local comic store at their fingertips, thanks to technology.

So I’m a bit of an anomaly because I’m a little old school and like holding individual comic issues and trade paperbacks in my hands, but I enjoy being able access any of my favorite comics at any time. So what’s the best medium for you? Well, it really depends on you! For most regular comic shop goers, physical comics will suffice (as long as they have enough storage space for all those short and long boxes). But for those too busy to swing by their local comic store, digital comics is your best bet.

Whenever I read comics, I usually do a double pass, first reading the story and then looking through the artwork. I like to appreciate both parts of what makes a comic book, and the best way to decide if physical comics or digital comics is the best for you is to go through the pros and cons.

As a comic collector, purchasing single issues, or floppies, protected by a bag and board and trade paperbacks for my bookshelf is paramount. For me, I can pull down a trade before bed and read one of my favorite stories in one sitting. And since I visit my local comic store every week, the manager and cashiers know me, so it’s like Cheers where I can chat about comic news, get the inside scoop on new releases, and enjoy a customer discount. The big downside is space. I own two large long boxes and a few short boxes filled with floppies that sit underneath my desk at home. And let me tell you, they aren’t light boxes. And, to tell you the truth, I’ve maybe flipped through all my floppies once or twice. But I’ve re-read a number of trades. And every time, I remember why I enjoy comics because it transports me to another world, one of creativity and imagination.

On the flip side, with the dominance of smartphones and tablets, we can access anything thanks to the Internet. And it was only a matter of time that comics made their way to the digital realm. In the beginning days, there weren’t many options to purchase and download digital comics. But one emerged as the best and the one I use on a regular basis called Comixology. Here, if you wanted to read the newest Dan Slott Amazing Spider-man, you can download it when it releases. If you wanted to check out Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead because you really enjoy the AMC television show, you can download it from the very first issue. And there are troves and troves of comics you can download, from the most recent releases to back issues that were only released in print form before we were even born. With that said, the only downside I can think of is the ability to hold the floppy in your hands. Reading from your computer or tablet does eliminate the storage issue from collecting floppies and trades, and with the ability to save all your digital comics in the Cloud, the possibilities are endless!

In a way, these digital platforms have created your own personal local comic store that you can access at home, work, on vacation, or at the nearest Starbucks. And with our busy lives, the convenience of downloading comics onto your devices may be what tips the scale in their favor. But the decision is up to you. As a comic book shop goer, the mountains of advice and wisdom from the manager and cashiers at my local comic store allows me to check out new titles and genres. It also is a great way to connect with other readers. Everyone has their favorite superhero, writer, or artist, and the quintessential nerd argument may ensue about which character would win in a fight (ie Superman vs Captain America), but at the end of the day, we are all lovers of comic books. And to me, that’s a beautiful thing.

So if you prefer reading comics digitally on your iPad or laptop or tediously turn the pages of your floppy as to keep it in as Near Mint condition as possible, I salute you and hope that maybe down the road, you can check out the other mediums so you see if it may work for you.

There isn’t a right or wrong way to consume comics. As long as you are being transported into another world through the story or the artwork, then comic books are doing their job of allowing our imaginations to run free. And to me, that’s what it’s all about!

If this is your first time visiting Shortboxed, thanks for stopping by! We want to provide a place online where people new to comics can come and learn about the culture and be introduced to some amazing stories without feeling overwhelmed or intimidated. We’re always adding new content, so please come back soon! You can also follow us onTwitter, Instagram and Tumblr at @shortboxed.

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  1. […] picking up your superhero comics at your local comic shop or even perusing the digital offerings on Comixology, there are so many opportunities for you to discover other comics that may interest you. Let me […]

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